Segment 3 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf begins with THE PLAYERS Championship on Thursday. Its timing in the leadoff position of 13 events is perfect because the field of 154 is the deepest of all PGA TOUR-operated events and the course doesn’t care who you are. It’s a tradition at TPC Sawgrass.
No doubt the final leaderboard will consist of household names with significant fantasy value, but so will the list of those cast aside by the 36-hole cut of low 65 and ties. So, our objective isn’t entirely to guess who will be scoring the most fantasy points, it’s how to balance promise with patience.
For example, defending champion Rory McIlroy doesn’t appear on my roster below. Certainly, if THE PLAYERS was the last stop or his projected finale of a Segment, and if I still had one start to burn, I would, but with the Masters (where he again will be chasing the career grand slam), the Wells Fargo Championship (at Quail Hollow where he’s won twice), the PGA Championship (at Kiawah Island where he prevailed in 2012) and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide (where he’s often a threat) all included in Segment 3, it’s a no-brainer to step around the danger at TPC Sawgrass. Heck, even if he becomes the first in tournament history to defend his title, he’ll be even more attractive in all subsequent starts.
Because the field is so deep, let it come to you. I’ve blended value with likelihood to survive the cut. Tiebreakers went to Tommy Fleetwood and Adam Scott because I’m unlikely to need more than three starts from each. The you in two months will be thankful.
Today, it was announced that the RBC Canadian Open on June 10-13 was canceled due to continuing concerns connected to the pandemic. Although a replacement event in the United States is expected to be announced in due time, the conclusion of Segment 3 shouldn’t influence your decisions in the interim.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for THE PLAYERS Championship (in alphabetical order):
Tommy Fleetwood (+4000)
Jon Rahm (+1400)
Xander Schauffele (+2000)
Adam Scott (+7000)
Webb Simpson (+2200)
Justin Thomas (+2000)
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Daniel Berger; Patrick Cantlay; Bryson DeChambeau; Tony Finau; Max Homa; Viktor Hovland; Kevin Kisner; Rory McIlroy; Collin Morikawa; Joaquin Niemann; Scottie Scheffler; Cameron Smith; Jordan Spieth
Driving: Daniel Berger; Keegan Bradley; Paul Casey; Corey Conners; Bryson DeChambeau; Sergio Garcia; Sungjae Im; Dustin Johnson; Jason Kokrak; Collin Morikawa; Joaquin Niemann; Scottie Scheffler; Brendan Steele
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Joaquin Niemann (+5500) … With his well-balanced bag, he fits the profile of a future winner at TPC Sawgrass. Of course, he already has the pedigree but this is his debut, so usage should be spread smartly. (In an ultra-rare moment of sharing a gut feeling with you, I went into the research for THE PLAYERS believing that he could sit No. 1 in the Power Rankings. That’s where my confidence is positioned in the 22-year-old Chilean. Fellow debutant Viktor Hovland arrives with more heat, but Niemann also possesses the same it-factor worthy of a reach before the reign.)
Odds sourced on Wednesday, March 9 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Max Homa (+6600) … If there was a stat for Strokes Gained: Feelin’ It, he’d be atop the TOUR right now. The 30-year-old is not a late bloomer by any definition, but his self-belief must be at an all-time high. He presented as ripe for a letdown at The Concession, both physically and emotionally, but it hasn’t happened. Despite qualifying for that World Golf Championship as the winner of The Genesis Invitational, he finished T22. And despite conventional wisdom to consider taking a week off, he finished T10 at Bay Hill. Now he’s making his tournament debut at TPC Sawgrass and in what is his eighth consecutive start. I’m not rostering him but I’m done thinking that he’s operating on fumes. Turns out that he’s more of an EV who just recharges week after week.
Sergio Garcia (+8000) … One & Doners already know this, but it applies to all gamers: If you’re ever going to invest in the Spaniard, reserve starts at The Open Championship and THE PLAYERS Championship. The 2008 champ is the all-time earnings leader at TPC Sawgrass and he’s survived every cut here since 2004.
Jason Day (+4500) … Playing OK and recently rose for a T7 at Pebble Beach. Because he’s had so much success there, it’s reasonable for him to make noise here. Overall, the Aussie is 6-for-9 with one win (2016) among four top 10s.
Jason Kokrak (+7000) … Something will give because he’s just 2-for-7 with no top 45s at TPC Sawgrass. Yet, he arrives having gone 7-for-7 in 2021 with top 10s at The Concession and Bay Hill. Prove it to course-history buffs that they shouldn’t be so narrow-minded.
Branden Grace (+17500) … The Puerto Rico Open champ honored his commitment to the API and finished a respectable T26. He’s perfect in six trips to TPC Sawgrass but hasn’t recorded a top 40. Because of his recent pop, his DFS value probably will be higher than he deserves, but sometimes you shouldn’t shop insurance at full cost. You just buy it.
Cameron Smith (+6600) … Leaning on current form over poor history because, well, TPC Sawgrass. Also co-leads the PGA TOUR in par-5 scoring.
Scottie Scheffler (+4000) … In a groove and a tremendous fit in his tournament debut. Give him a whirl in DFS.
Abraham Ancer (+7000) … Almost too quiet of late but he’s not slumping. Took last week off after a T18 at The Concession. Posted a T5 at PGA WEST a month before that. Leads the PGA TOUR in fairways hit and ranked T17 in greens in regulation. Authored a steady T12 in his debut at THE PLAYERS in 2019.
Louis Oosthuizen (+5500) … Although you need only one hand to count the occurrences in any season, there are notables who withdraw on the morning of an opening round and often after the deadline to set lineups. It happened when he pulled out of the API, and it cost 15.33 percent of the gamers who rostered him. It stinks but it’s part of the game, so we accept the possibilities every time it happens. Our option is not to play. If you were stung and haven’t turned the page, give your heart a break and reinvest. He’s still one of the most consistent to make cuts and he’s a former co-runner-up at TPC Sawgrass (2017).
Patrick Reed (+4000) … Although neither of his top 40s in six trips are top 20s, this is nothing more than a strategic pass. He’s still not a consistent ball-striker, so we’ll get after him another week when it makes more sense.
Tyrrell Hatton (+4000) … Because of TPC Sawgrass, course history takes a back seat to experience, but his record here is uninspiring enough not to consider even as a flier and despite consistently strong form upon arrival. He’s just 1-for-3 with a scoring average of 73.13. Given his propensity to wear his emotions on his sleeve, it’s fair to wonder if he’s just not a fit on a course that exploits mistakes as much as this one.
Matt Kuchar (+15000) … He’s 11-for-13 with a win (2012) and a T3 (2016) among seven top 20s since 2004, but the 42-year-old is sliding rapidly. In his last 11 starts, he’s cashed six times, four of which because there was no cut, and failed to finish inside a top 30.
Bubba Watson (+15000) … Eight paydays in 12 trips and nary a top-35 finish.
Brandt Snedeker (+35000) … Despite a T5 here in 2019, the 40-year-old has been underwhelming for far too long. The most recent sample size includes just two cuts made in six starts in 2021, and neither was a top 30. Still accurate enough to scare off the tee, but his irons are more than enough to scare us away.
Luke List (+20000) … He and Michael Thompson had the odd experience of qualifying for and completing the one round of THE PLAYERS last year, and then reopening the Korn Ferry Tour season on Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass three months later. That was because the concurrently contested Charles Schwab Challenge was an invitational and neither was eligible for it. Of course, List prevailed on the KFT that week. He’s been up and down through this PGA TOUR season, and while his ball-striking suggests that he deserves consideration, there’s too much risk to invest in every format.
Doc Redman (+35000) … As a reliable ball-striker, he could entertain but since a T4 in Bermuda, he’s just 3-for-7 and without a top 60.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Patrick Cantlay … If he wasn’t making his first start since withdrawing early at The Concession due to dehydration and an upset stomach, he’d have been the default Wild Card. Illnesses are noteworthy but they’re not worthy of much concern since they usually don’t impact the swing. He also has top 20s in six consecutive starts upon arrival, but he’s still chasing his first in his fourth appearance at TPC Sawgrass.
Si Woo Kim … The 2017 PLAYERS champ called it quits after opening the API with an 80. An explanation wasn’t released, but he has a history of withdrawing due to an injured back. It extended his slump to 1-for-5 since winning The American Express in late January.
Justin Rose … Soreness in his lower back forced him to walk off Bay Hill during his third round. The timing couldn’t have been better for contrarians to consider the 40-year-old at THE PLAYERS. In his heyday, he was one of the most reliable ball-strikers on the planet. It took time for him to figure out TPC Sawgrass, however, but since 2014, he’s 5-for-6 with a pair of top 10s among four top 25s. With a T2 in Saudi Arabia just a month ago, consider stowing him on the bench in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
Tiger Woods … Even before his crash on Feb. 23, it was unlikely that he’d be back inside the ropes by now. It’s been only two-and-a-half months since his latest back surgery, so even a hopeful return at Masters seemed aggressive.
Brooks Koepka … Resting a strained right knee.
Matthew Wolff … It’s easy to read into his gaffe on the green at The Concession, opening 83 and subsequent withdrawal. Until there’s more to understand if that’s warranted, and despite the fact that the WGC was his third start since withdrawing after one round at Torrey Pines, it cannot be ruled out that the discomfort in his right hand that triggered the first WD isn’t at the root of his second. Whatever the case, he’s in no rush to return and forcing it at TPC Sawgrass is a recipe for disaster. That’s fine for him but his investors already are antsy.
Danny Willett … Tested positive for COVID-19. He’ll remain 0-for-5 at THE PLAYERS.
Zac Blair … Sidelined until at least this summer after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder last fall.
Bud Cauley … He hasn’t competed since a T14 at the Safeway Open to begin the season. He withdrew early from his next commitment at the Sanderson Farms Championship. No news has surfaced to explain his time away and he hasn’t shared anything in social media. Because he’s been sidelined for over four months, he’s fulfilled the time requirement to qualify for a Major Medical Extension in 2021-22 if he needs it, but salary gamers won’t start holding their breaths to get him on the cheap unless he’s out for at least another four months.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Rory McIlroy T10
2 Patrick Reed MC
3 Bryson DeChambeau Win
4 Matthew Fitzpatrick T10
5 Tyrrell Hatton T21
6 Sungjae Im T21
7 Marc Leishman MC
8 Billy Horschel MC
9 Francesco Molinari MC
10 Viktor Hovland T49
11 Paul Casey T10
12 Jason Kokrak T8
13 Will Zalatoris 10
14 Kevin Na T43
15 Louis Oosthuizen DNP
Wild Card Hideki Matsuyama
SLEEPERS RECAP – Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
Keegan Bradley T10
Talor Gooch T43
John Huh T63
Luke List T63
Matthew NeSmith MC
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
March 9 … Vaughn Taylor (45)
March 10 … none
March 11 … none
March 12 … none
March 13 … Austin Cook (30)
March 14 … Vincent Whaley (26)
March 15 … none
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